Ambassador Yousef Otaiba said: “The air base is a very nice insurance policy against any additional pressure. Maybe someone in Congress should have a hearing and just say, you know: 'Should we consider moving it?’ ”
Last week, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations cut off all diplomatic ties with Qatar and accused the country's government of supporting terrorists across the Middle East. Doha has denied the charges, but that wasn't enough for Emirati officials.
“We’ve gotten fed up. We’ve had enough,” Otaiba said.
According to Otaiba, the U.S. airbase in Qatar has given cover for the country's government to continue supporting instability in the Middle East unabated.
“If I want to be honest, I think the reason action hasn’t been taken against Qatar is because of the air base,” he said.
Earlier, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the diplomatic crisis centered around Qatar was a sign of Russia's continuing efforts to destabilize the West and the rest of the world.
Russia is “trying to break any kind of multilateral alliance ... that is a stabilizing influence in the world," Mattis said during a hearing in response to a question by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Qatar is the site of the United States' biggest military base in the Middle East. The forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command and the staging area for much of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are based near Doha, the country's capital.
Meanwhile, China’s cardinal foreign policy priority is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors – even when they may be at each other’s throats.
Russia is getting closer to Qatar since the game-changing acquisition earlier by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) of 19.5% of the Russian energy giant Rosneft.
This economic-political alliance of the world’s top two gas exporters has abruptly thrown its “moderate rebels” in Syria under the bus as their funding is drying up.
China is Qatar’s top trading partner and it was actively negotiating a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before the current standoff.
Qatar is also China’s second-largest source of liquefied natural gas (LNG), while Saudi Arabia is China’s third-largest source of oil. In 2010, China overtook the US as the biggest exporter to the Middle East and, at the same also became the top importer of its energy resources.
Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran where he and President Rouhani pledged to raise Chinese-Iranian bilateral trade to a whopping $600 billion in 10 years, most of it related to the Belt-Road Initiative (BRI) expansion.
For more than a year now, direct China-Iran cargo trains have been crossing Central Asia in only 12 days, to be followed by a high-speed rail connectivity spanning the arc from China to Turkey via Iran in less than 5 years.
Syria will also be included as a BRI node and Syrian merchants were a top fixture in the trading-in-small-goods Silk Road running from the Levant to Yiwu in eastern China before the war.
China’s Maritime Silk Road is mostly about port infrastructure, built by Chinese companies, configuring key BRI stops from the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and Suez all the way to Piraeus port in the Greek Mediterranean that is owned and operated by China’s COSCO since August 2016. This upgraded, modern container hub for trade between East Asia and the West is already the fastest-growing port in Europe.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already made it clear that Turkey’s national interests involve “the Suez Canal, the adjacent seas, and from there extending to the Indian Ocean.” As much as Ankara has set up a base in Qatar, and with 3,000 soldiers being flown in, it has also established a Turkish-Saudi Strategic Cooperation Council (that may now be in jeopardy)..
Ankara is also strategically pivoting to Russia ahead of the new Turkish Stream pipeline. This also qualifies as a pivot to China and possible membership of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as well as of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
With Iran as a possible full member of the SCO as early as next year, together with Turkey are actively supporting Qatar in the current standoff, including via regular food shipments.
Currently, Egypt poses an extra problem as it aligned with Riyadh in the Qatar standoff but the new Singapore-sized capital east of Cairo is essentially being financed by Chinese investment of $35 billion at the end of last year.
Ahmed Darwish, chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, has nothing but praise to the top investor in the Suez Canal Corridor, which happens to be Beijing.
Of concern is the budding Israeli-Chinese connection of Israel backing the Saudi-UAE anti-Qatar blockade as yet another proxy war front against Iran.
China is also bidding to build the Red-Med high-speed rail connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and the Chinese will be able to transship cargo via the Red-Med railway directly to Piraeus – an alternative route adding to the already Chinese-involved Suez Canal Corridor.
Shanghai International Port Group is also running Israel’s Haifa port and China Harbor Engineering will build a new $876 million port in Ashdod.
Israel is already China’s top supplier of advanced agricultural technology of water desalination, aquaculture and cattle farming and Beijing wants more biomedical, clean energy and telecom technology Israeli imports. And the clincher is Israel’s imminent membership of the AIIB.
It’s fair to argue that from now on everything that happens across the Middle East will be determined by BRI’s land-sea superhighway emporium from East Asia and Southeast Asia to southeastern Europe.
Optional>>>Meanwhile, the showdown between Qatar and its neighbors has disrupted trade, split families and threatened to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances. It’s also prompted one Qatari businessman to fly 4,000 cows to the Gulf desert in an act of resistance and opportunity to fill the void left by a collapse in the supply of fresh milk.
In as many as 60 flights for Qatar Airways, the beasts that Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, bought in Australia and the US will be put to work in Qatar.
The blockade that started on June 5 has forced the world’s richest country by capita to open new trade routes to import food, building materials and equipment for its natural gas industry. The central bank said domestic and international transactions were running normally.
Meanwhile, Turkish dairy goods have been flown in, and Iranian fruit and vegetables are delivered regularly by ship and plane. There’s also a campaign to buy home-grown produce and signs with colors of the Qatari flag have been placed next to dairy products in stores.
One sign dangling from the ceiling said: “Together for the support of local products.” It is a message of defiance, that we don’t need others. The government has made sure that there are no shortages.
Most of the fresh milk and dairy products for Doha’s more than 1 million population came from Saudi Arabia up until a week ago and that milk is getting scarce after the kingdom, the UAE and two of their allies cut transport links with a country that spends $500 million a week to prepare stadiums and a metro before the soccer World Cup in 2022.
Al Khayyat, whose main business is a construction firm that built Qatar’s biggest mall, had been expanding the company's agricultural business at a farm 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Doha. Food security is part of Qatar’s government strategy to steer the economy away from petrodollars, known, like in Saudi Arabia, as “Vision 2030.”
On a site covering the equivalent of almost 70 soccer fields, new grey sheds line two strips of verdant grass in the desert with a road running through the middle up to a small mosque. It produces sheep milk and meat and there were already plans to import the cows by sea. Then Qatar was ostracized, so the project was expedited.
Fresh milk production will now start by the end of the month rather than September and will eventually cover a third of Qatar’s demand by mid-July, Al Khayyat said at his office in Doha. Facilities for the Holstein cows are ready, though the company will take a hit on the shipping cost for the animals, which increased more than five times to $8 million.
“No one in his daily life feels a crisis,” Al Khayyat said. “The government is working very hard to ensure there’s no effect.”